Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I'm very honored to announce that a story of mine was selected for inclusion in The Weird, a mammoth anthology of some of the best weird fiction of all time. This will be released in May of next year.
Weird Fiction Review has named The Great Lover "Weird Book of the Year!"
D.F. Lewis' very thoughtful real-time review of The Great Lover can be found here.
My essay on supernatural literature and what's wrong with Todorov's definition of "the fantastic" is now available in the print version of The Weird Fiction Review #2, edited by S.T. Joshi and published by Centipede Press. Centipede will also be releasing a multi-volume collection of my novels, essays, and stories next year ... more on that later.
It's likely that a new novel from your reporter will be appearing from Chomu Press in 2012, and a new short story of mine has been chosen for their upcoming Dadaoism anthology.
And the Kafka blog is already up to aphorism #20.
Many happy returns of the season to everyone, and thank you for your continued attention and interest!
Saturday, November 26, 2011
New blog project: Kafka's "Zurau Aphorisms," aka "Reflections on Sin, Suffering, Hope, and the True Way" [Brod's title, or couldn't you guess?]. The 109 aphorisms will be posted one by one and in order, with commentary where possible from your reporter.
The first post and wretched exegesis can be found here.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Johnny sez Occupy Wall Street and/or your own town. Donate.
The President has already begun his campaign for 2012, and he's dusting off his Progressive drag again. Democratic politicians are already maneuvering themselves out in front of the occupiers, trying to co-opt them much in the same way way the Tea Party was co-opted by the Republicans.
The more people there are in the streets making trouble, the harder it will be for either party to maintain the pretense that they represent anybody, so viva trouble.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Why is Franzen Important?
Franzen is important because he allows the middle class to believe they still matter, they still exist.
We know that the Western novel (as distinct from long prose narratives in general, and so not including The Tale of Genji or The Golden Ass) develops in parallel with the Western middle class, and that this parallelism is not a coincidence. The middle class strives to vindicate itself socially alongside the aristocracy by demonstrating a moral superiority predicated on the cultivation of an elaborate personality or interior life. The novel is the model of this kind of interior life and the obsessively general, all-surveying point of view it takes on the world and its society. Any people anywhere in the world, irrespective of class, may have elaborate Freudian inner lives; my point is that the middle class have turned the elaborate inner life into a fetish which serves as one of the fundamental componants of class identity. In principle, every middle class person lives a novel. Middle class life is a novel. Not every novel is a middle class life.
Every generation of the middle class has its great national novelist to update the model and to reflect the persistence of the middle class' importance, and Franzen wins this dubious distinction for the current generation.
The middle class has less clout in American society now than ever. Given current conditions, the status of the solid bourgeois citizen of two generations ago has disappeared. The US is now a society with two classes only: the filthy rich and the rest. The middle class are already lumped in with the rest, but they resist acknowledging this. The last thing they want to do is acknowledge that they have anything in common with the "white trash" they have been trained all their lives to detest irrationally. They cling to their middle class distinction by clinging to trappings, or to cheap or often expensive imitations, of all sorts, the way the Russian duchess, disposessed by the revolution, clings to her hyphenated name, her snippets of French, her endlessly refondled memory of dancing with Prince Shklovsky at the ball, while she's waiting in line to cash her disability check. So, the middle class clings to Franzen. If they didn't have him, they'd find someone else, they'd invent him.
The middle class do not cling to fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels. These are never taken seriously. Now, however, this kind of fiction is a redoubt of literary activity in the US, far more so than is the traditional middle class novel. Why?
Horror fiction: because it registers the idea that ordinary life is a dream, and that reality is in fact much worse. The middle class occupies an oasis of comfort in the midst of the desert created by all the trouble it requires to sustain itself, and which is too discomfiting to look at. In many horror stories, the menace is overcome by a turn to spirituality or religion; this has an obvious counterpart in my analogy. However, not all horror fiction includes a comforting restoration; the basic wrongness often remains, the sense that a penance has to be paid, there is nothing that can be done to reinforce the foundations of this precarious way of life. What's more, horror fiction often masks a desire, which is not always ambivalent, to destroy this way of life. Or at least, to see it destroyed.
Fantasy fiction: because it reflects a desire for a connection between individuals in a greater scheme of things, particularly to fictionalized traditions, histories, and societies. Adopting, if only in fancy, a substitute history, which blocks out the reality. Trying to validate middle class values in the same way that aristocratic values are validated. Tolkien is replete with this: the hobbits are English 19th century middle class values incarnate. However, the appeal of fantasy is hard to understand without realizing that middle class life feels hollow, divorced in practice from the values it espouses in theory. This is especially true of its meritocratic rhetoric; in fantasy, individuals really do make a difference. In many cases, the fictional history is appealing not because it blocks the view of an uncomfortable true history, but because that true history is blocked out in any event, and this in turn creates a yearning for a history, even if it makes all history look like fiction. Fantasy also reflects a frequently fanciful nostalgia for a less alienated life, lived closer to the land and the tribe. For values that are not well realized or really meaningful in a middle class capitalist milieu, like compassion, wisdom, kindness, selflessness, courage, blessings and curses, justice.
Science fiction: because it presents alternative futures that emerge from a special kind of anticipation that is also characteristic of the middle class. Technological innovation can produce sudden wealth and renewal of the middle class; the middle class can go on forever, even on Mars. Neither aristocrats nor poor farmers are traditionally supposed to be interested in innovation (whether or not they are is not material here, only that they are not specially associated with innovation the way the middle class is). Science fiction affords the greatest possible scope to the kind of all-seeing, all-surveying, strictly neutral or "tolerant" middle class point of view. However, science fiction also reflects an intense appetite for meaning through discovery and the development of knowledge; it is now the only place where such an appetite can be found. Science fiction has a salubrious optimism that is surprisingly attractive and resistant to criticism. It values intelligence, curiosity, inventiveness, resourcefulness, intrepidity, and above all a willingness, not to discover the truth, which is an impulse shared by many other kinds of fiction and therefore not specifically a hallmark of science fiction, but rather to embrace and adapt to the truth, which is a hallmark of science fiction.
These three genres continue to develop because they have something to say. The middle class realist novel has less and less to offer, and will likely continue its devolution until it becomes an empty amulet.
Friday, May 27, 2011
There's also a new review of The Narrator here.
Monday, April 11, 2011
The latest phantasmagorical offering from Cisco (The Narrator) is a fusion of dark fantasy, literary fiction, and existential horror that revolves around the eponymous character of the sewerman, an undead tramp in search of capital-L Love who can enter into women's dreams. As he pines for a blind woman named Vera, he also helps a disgraced academic turned prophet to establish a "ptochocratic" cult that wants to create its own reality underground and battle a soul-sucking plague of white noise. The surreal narrative is something like a 400-page T.S. Eliot poem: otherworldly, lyrical, deeply philosophical, and supersaturated with extraordinary imagery and ideas (like the Prosthetic Libido, a golem-like device constructed to house a scientist's unwanted desire). Fans of stylish and thematically sophisticated weird fiction should seek out this mad testament to Cisco's visionary genius.
The Great Lover is available
Read about it here
... or here.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
... in time to see him lowering from his lips a half-chewed human leg. (It was his mother's, judging from the tattooing). In the next instant, he had bolted for the treeline.
We pursued him as best we could, back through heavy timber, back to that lone sentinel-like rock I had so often glimpsed from a distance. As we approached it, I could see that every flat surface on the stone was carved with tangled occult symbols and inscriptions. IMAGOLAIRDBARRONJACKSONIMAGOBARRONOKERSTOKERSTOKERACKSON
The clearing beyond was littered with dismembered human remains in all stages of noisome decomposition. A groan rose from us all as we looked in on stark denial. Wilson recoiled from the rock and turned aside, vomiting noisily. It must have been several minutes - but, in such circumstances, what is any reckoning of time worth? - before any of us could really take notice of the Queen Anne table so neatly placed among the charnel fragments.
An immaculate dollhouse perched on top of this table. The canary-yellow walls and white trim, gay red roof and fanciful chimneys, all as clean as if it had been newly made and painted. Opening the hinged sides revealed a meticulously furnished and decorated Edwardian interior, populated by a whole menage of exquisite handmade porcelain miniatures. Their heads gleamed with unbelievably perfect coiffures of real human hair (the donors lay in pieces all about us). Several of the male figures wore waistcoats of silky human fat, and the gowns of the ladies were trimmed in a friable lace that analysis later identified as human cartilage. The faces of the dolls were painted with exacting care; the adults simpered at the rather numerous child figurines, all of whom had flat, neutral expressions, and were strangely configured, more like small adults than children.
Again that nerve-shattering whistle broke upon us and froze us where we stood। And, as before, I lifted my head to confront the cockatrice-gaze of that baleful, solitary eye, frenzied and soulless, that hell-bead of ravening malevolence, wedged in features blank with a malignancy more than daemoniacal, but still surmounting the fabulous incongruency of the gashed white stockings, the battered and mud-smeared patent leather shoes, the ragged pinafore with the dangling hem, still pink where the blackness of innocent blood had not yet stained it ...
Monday, January 10, 2011
Read what Jeff VanderMeer has to say about The Narrator here.
And related post, featuring a raft of reviews, here.
Also be advised that a new novel from me and the bright lights of another new publisher, Chomu Press, is on the horizon: The Great Lover. Read about it here.
The Centipede Press anthology will take the form of five slip-covered items, and is due to appear in 2012, assuming there's still a world to appear in.
More work is on the way.
My thanks to Adam Niswander et al. for the warm reception I received this last weekend at MythosCon in Phoenix, and greetings to all I met and re-met.
That is all.